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UK delegation in talks with China about post-Brexit trade

By Bo Leung in London | | Updated: 2017-03-22 00:31

A UK delegation of business experts is in China to discuss trade opportunities between the two sides after Britain leaves the European Union.

During the week-long trip to Beijing and Shanghai, economists and lawyers from the UK Trade Policy Observatory at the University of Sussex will be meeting business groups, officials and China-based UK government representatives.

The trip comes ahead of British Prime Minister Theresa May's expected visit to the world's second-largest economy this year.

Ingo Borchert, a UKTPO economist, said high on the agenda would be the challenge in achieving post-Brexit trade deals that work in the world of global supply chains.

Borchert said: "China is an increasingly important trade partner for the UK and our exports to each other contain a large share of components made in third countries."

He added: "Goods trade, services trade and investments become increasingly interlinked, thus deep trade agreements need to address a range of trade and trade-related areas. Therefore, any meaningful free trade agreement would have to be comprehensive, both with the EU and other countries, such as China."

The economist pointed out that such an approachis likely to mean that the UK would need to surrender some degree of policy sovereignty.

Also under discussion during the visit is the role of the World Trade Organisation.

Emily Lydgate, A UKTPO lawyer specializing in international trade law, said: "With Trump's America signaling high trade barriers and distancing itself from – even openly attacking – the WTO, China is poised to step in as champion of liberal, multilateral trade."

She said: "The WTO is playing an important role in Brexit, providing much-needed stability."

The UKTPO was put together in a partnership between the University of Sussex and Chatham House, an international-affairs think tank. The group has been working with the UK government, industry and public in addressing international trade challenges posed by Brexit.

This trade visit is just the latest in the deepening links between the University of Sussex and China.

This week, the educational institution is holding its second overseas graduation ceremony in Shanghai where university leaders will be meeting with partner universities, such as Renmin University of China, to discuss strengthening ties.

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